Food Harvest 2020 is a strategy that was developed by an industry-led committee whose wide membership included representatives of the food and drink industry, state agencies, academia, farm bodies and other interested stakeholders. As a strategic policy document, it is not in the category of plan or project under the provisions of Article 6(3) of the Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC that would require "appropriate assessment" of impact on a particular site or sites. Implementation of many of the key measures needed to achieve the growth figures set out in the report is a matter for private sector actors including industry and individual farmers, while co-ordination of the State contribution to Food Harvest 2020 is overseen by a High Level Implementation Committee (HLIC), which I chair. This Committee consists of representatives from Bord Bia, Teagasc, Bord Iascaigh Mhara. Enterprise Ireland, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and this Department.
The HLIC decided it would be appropriate that an analysis of environmental impacts should be undertaken to inform the implementation of measures by all relevant actors including those in the private sector. The committee recognised that the broad targets in the report might be achieved in a variety of ways and determined that the environmental analysis should be of various possible scenarios related to their realisation. It is felt that this type of analysis is appropriate to the high level strategic nature of the report.
An independent team of consultants has been appointed to carry out the work and is due to present an interim report in the coming weeks with a final report due in October. The analysis will substantially follow the process of strategic environmental assessment as set out in Directive 2001/42/EC. It will include the likely impacts of achieving the targets, through a number of scenarios, on:
water, including groundwater quality,
climatic factors including impacts on greenhouse gas emission levels.
The outcome of this analysis will be important in informing future more detailed plans, programmes and projects related to achievement of the broad targets in Food Harvest 2020, including whether appropriate assessment is required of any such proposals under the Habitats Directive. The Department is facilitating public consultation for the process, and in this regard details of the consultation were posted on the Department's website on 11 May 2012 and advertised in the Irish Independent on 16 May 2012 with a closing date of 28 June 2012. On request, this closing date was subsequently extended to 6 July 2012. This represents a consultation period of some eight weeks. The closing date for submissions was set originally for the end of June in order to allow sufficient time for the consultants to properly consider submissions before the finalisation of their interim report but, of course, any further submissions received will also be forwarded to the consultants.